Pizza on the Park returns as luxury Wellesley hotel

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 3:09pm

You can spot The Wellesley immediately by its art deco exterior. This new luxury boutique hotel in one of London's most exclusive locations has been created in an iconic 1920s building that began life as a London Underground station, and then became Pizza on the Park, one of the city's premier jazz venues.

Now totally refurbished and extended upwards, it claimed, in the run up to opening, that it would be "London's first six-star hotel". That claim has since been quietly dropped, but it is still aiming to be a highly serviced, top-end five-star hotel - with prices to match.

The hotel overlooks Hyde Park and has particularly good views from the upper floors, especially the four-bedroom, four-bathroom Penthouse Suite. Across the road is Apsley House (also known as Number One, London), the historic home of the Duke of Wellington.

Buckingham Palace is almost a neighbour - at least its garden is - and it's a short ride or walk across London's royal parks to both Westminster and the West End. To one side of the hotel is Piccadilly, to the other Knightsbridge, with its famous shops and its restaurants.

The Wellesley's interior is a modern, toned-down, take on art deco in creams, beiges and browns - except in the darker, gentleman's club-style Cigar Lounge.

Contemporary chandeliers of multiple crystal balls light the ceilings, and all the furniture is comfortably padded. The hotel is small enough to be intimate, and large enough to provide a choice of places to relax, eat, and drink.

The Oval Restaurant serves genuine Italian food. There are no nouvelle cuisine portions here - you are expected to enjoy your food, and there are plenty of delicious extras, from 24-month Parma ham wrapped around tasty grissini to homemade petit fours.

Attention is individual, staff greet you by name and rapidly learn your preferences.

The restaurant menu is available throughout the hotel, so you can eat a gourmet meal anywhere: in your room, or in the Jazz Lounge.

At one end of the lounge is a climate controlled room, which is described as the largest humidor in Europe. Inside is a world-class collection of cigars. The 150 varieties include a £12 (HK$146) stick, The Wellesley's own brand (£100), and some real rarities rolled by Castro's own cigar roller. These numbered, limited-edition Cohiba Behike cigars are the world's most expensive at £3,000 for a stick - a price which gives a whole new meaning to the term burning money. British law prohibits smoking in public interiors, so the Cigar Lounge has a covered terrace. It is well screened from the road, and heated in winter. Smokers can sit comfortably outside in easy chairs, even in sub-zero temperatures.

The Crystal Bar is adorned with glass cases which contain the hotel's whisky, cognac and armagnac collections. These include a couple of bottles of 1770 cognac. You can taste this elderly tipple for a mere £4,000 a shot, or stick to The Wellesley's own label for £45.

The Jazz Lounge is the room that hosted countless big names when this was Pizza on the Park, the famed jazz venue. John Dankworth and George Melly once played here, and an in-house programme of live jazz is now in development.

Traditional English afternoon tea - with a 25-variety tea list including two delightfully aromatic exclusives - is served from 2pm to 7pm, before the lounge reopens at 10pm as the Jazz Club.

In recognition of its famous past, you can also order a pizza.

The hotel's 36 rooms (more than half of them suites) are adorned with photos of film stars, and are reached by a security-conscious lift that will only take you to your own floor. The beds are very comfortable and the large marble bathrooms have Hermès toiletries.

Where you expect light switches, you find remote control panels that open and close the curtains, turn on the "Do not disturb" sign, request cleaning, or change the lighting. The rooms are extremely well lit with lots of lamps and ceiling lights

All rooms have a tablet computer containing information about the hotel and London. You can also browse the internet on the hotel's Wi-fi. It's quite a masculine hotel and is geared to the cosmopolitan Middle-Eastern taste of its Yemeni owner. It will make a convenient London bolt-hole for those for whom money is no object.